Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 10, No. 1          January 2002

Happy New Year!

The major gap in our education has been complete absence of the study of comparative religion. I have a couple of pretty respectable degrees, but I blush to admit that I am hard put to differentiate between a Suni and a Suffi - just as I cannot tell a Southern Methodist from a Northern Shrike. So I have been reading up on the matter in an effort to find out just what it is we are fighting about, but it is not easy to investigate the philosophical nature of Islam. To begin with, Moslem doctrine forbids the translation of what may be called its scripture into any language other than Arabic, a language which does not translate well. The matter is made further difficult by the fact that the Koran appears to be dauntingly disorganized. It is only in part a theological treatise, covering as it does all sorts of oddments about lifestyle, physical conditioning, sanitation, and what may be called "differential morality." There is certainly more to it than meets the eye, since its appeal to large numbers of people of different cultural backgrounds over several centuries is startlingly strong. I must admit that I do not find any doctrine here that is worth fighting about. Nonetheless, these people want to fight about it, and that makes them both dangerous and silly at the same time, a condition difficult for a rationalist to accept.

I must admit that any body of religious doctrine is difficult for a rationalist to accept, since faith, by definition, is "the evidence of things unseen." This by no means diminishes the importance of faith in the human adventure, but it does leave at least some of us with a strong resistance to "polypragmatocracy " (the rule of the busybody). Some people want to be told how they should think about matters of faith and morals. Others feel that these matters should be left up to the individual. We do not object to the moral doctrines held by other people (as long as they do not result in savagery), but we do believe that people of maturity should be left free to decide religious matters for themselves.

And thereby hangs the tale. The devout Moslem demands that other people share his faith or die. That is not a foolish fancy - it is right there in the book. The devout Moslem does not necessarily hate the Infidel, he simply cannot accept his existence, and there you have the Holy War. It may be that OBL's days are briefly numbered, but whether he lives or dies, Islam remains the core of the Holy War. I cannot handle the Arabic language, and therefore it is not possible for me to interpret the Koran. The fact remains that we do have a Holy War on our hands, and how we pursue it remains to be seen. I do not know what we have in mind for the next step, but we do have good feelings about Mr. Rumsfeld. His conduct of what must be regarded as the preliminary skirmishes appear to have been carried out with neatness and dispatch. Now let us remain ready for Phase Two of the Jihad.

We are informed that in Africa today, north of the "Mason-Dixon Line," a professional hunter is required to pack a rifle at all times. (He is not, however, required to pack any ammunition.) This is the "new Africa."

We were distressed to learn that Peter Blake of New Zealand, a yachtsman with two first places in the America Cup, was recently murdered by pirates on the Amazon. We have no details, but we understand that the governments of the world stand firm in their conviction that decent people should not attempt to fight back against pirates. Whatever the political situation may be, we insist that if you venture out on the blue water you had best be armed and ready. Boat-against-boat action is usually best handled by the 30 caliber machinegun, but even a pistol may well suffice, if it is handled properly by the right man.

Now that you have your copy of the second issue of the Gargantuan Gunsite Gossip (G2), we advise that you get it hardbound as soon as convenient. That book is a scanner, to be browsed through at length. Best tidy it up so that you do not wear it out.


Doubtless you have noted the recent tendency on the part of various gun writers to denigrate the 30-06 cartridge. The late Charley Askins demonstrated this attitude some years ago in a magazine article, and now we see that a currently active colleague has taken up the tattered banner of iconoclasm again.

The trouble with the 30-06 is that, like Julius Caesar, it is too good. It is not only too good, but it is too old - now only four years short of its centennial. People have been trying to improve upon it since before I was born (and that was a very long time ago), but without success. Its great virtue seems to be its unacceptable versatility, which is a drawback in the age of specialization. I acquired my personal 06 when I was in high school, and while I have obtained a number of other weapons since then, I have never felt a real need to improve upon the cartridge. The 30-06 is nobody's first choice for elephants, nor is it ideal for prairie dogs, but it will suffice for either of those if that is all that is available, and it will account comfortably for everything in between - including Homo sapiens.

The cartridge was deemed too large for optimum portability after the Korean War, and was replaced by the US government with the 7.62 NATO cartridge, or 308 as we call it now. The 308 is a tad smaller than the 06, but this is a minor point to the individual owner, and with the advent of the more modern propellants any power difference between the two cartridges is negligible.

The 30-06 retains a minor, but not inconsiderable, edge over the more modern 308 in its accommodation of the 220-grain bullet, which renders it a practically perfect cartridge for the African buschveldt today, where versatility in one loading can be very useful. The 30-06/220 is eminently suitable for kudu or lion, yet will not tear up an impala or a springbok (whereas the 30-06/150 might).

I grew up on the 30-06, and that makes me a dinosaur, but I am nowise ashamed of that. In my teens I took four-for-four (bighorn through moose) with four shots in Alberta, and I have since taken a fair list of quadrupeds, big and little, with the same round.

Today I might fancy the 308 over the 06 simply because I can get it in Scout configuration. The Scout, after all, comes over-the-counter in 308. The difference in "field effect" between the 308/150 and 30-06/150 is negligible, so the handiness of the Scout favors it in high mountains and tundra. If the hunter is going to ride around in vehicles, however, handiness hardly matters.

There need be no discussion of intrinsic accuracy, since that is a function of rifle execution rather than cartridge design. Given equally fine launchers, both cartridges will deliver one-holers at reasonable ranges, and will shoot flatter than the marksman can appreciate out to where he can no longer see his target clearly.

The 30-06 ("United States cartridge, caliber 30, model of 1906") was and remains king. If the 308 now encroaches upon it that is because of improvements in rifle design, rather than new cartridges. Let him who would denigrate the King place himself well beyond the castle walls lest he be overheard. The punishment for lese majeste can be both undignified and uncomfortable.
"But there ain't many troubles that a man caint fix
With seven hundred dollars and a thirty ought six."

Guru say: The purpose of training is to fit you for a trade. The purpose of education is to make you better company for yourself.

I do not suppose that I will have much effect when I call upon the faithful to knock off this "internet war." Those of us in the family should devote ourselves to confounding the hoplophobes, rather than insulting each other. It was not very long ago that we had no problem here, when all the good guys were wearing the same uniform and fighting the same battle, but unfortunately faction has a way of rearing its ugly head. We American shooters who constitute the foundation of liberty, are philosophically correct, but we are not strong enough to aid the enemy by fighting amongst ourselves. Please do not throw rocks at people on your own side of the barricade. Despite our temporary victory at the polls, there are still plenty of people who voted the wrong way - and will continue to do so. Schumer, I understand, is still alive and well.

Those of you who are involved in designing practical pistol matches should bear in mind that the "Tac-load" has no place in competition. The Tac-load is a step to be taken between actions, not during them. In a competition you are always fighting the clock, but not between engagements in a street fight.

We are awash with opinions about the nature of the Holy War. Opinions are cheap, and long may they wave, but it would indeed be nice if these opinionators would study up on this subject before they presume to pontificate. I have been reading up like mad over the past thirty days and have become impressed by how little I know. This intercultural conflict is not easy to understand, and it has been made more difficult by the linguistic problem. The theologians insist that it is forbidden to translate the Koran into any language other than Arabic. I assume that is the reason for the prophet's injunction. Be that as it may, whenever a commentator presumes to tell us in English about the nature of Islam, he rather gives himself away. It does seem difficult to deny, however, that to a Moslem an Infidel is basically nasty, who can only be redeemed by conversion to Islam. So here we go. It is not going to be an easy confrontation.

I guess you have noticed that OBL is (or was) left-handed. There may be a lesson in this, but I sure do not know what it is.

Over the years I have developed the notion that there is a definite connection between marksmanship and morality. A good shot is nearly always a good man, and conversely the bad guys usually cannot shoot for sour owl jowls. This proposition cannot be proven, of course, but I think it has to do with the fact that the essence of good marksmanship is self-control, and it seems pretty clear that self-control is the foundation of good morals. Hurray for our side!

A couple of years back, the NRA committee on hunter assistance quizzed itself on the subject of "the great hunts." As Ortega tells us, hunting is one of the four activities which men of all cultures and all regions have always enjoyed when temporarily freed from the lash of poverty. (The other three, for those who are interested, are racing, dancing and conversation.) Hunting is universal - it is the universal indulgence. Thus we may ask ourselves, if everybody hunts who can, what are the great hunts? This is a matter of individual choice, of course, but when we sift out the choices we find a certain agreement, and the list comes out something like this:

"Think, therefore, on revenge and cease to weep."

Henry IV

I suggest that you do not come to pistol school with a pistol which may not be cocked ("double-action only"). You will hold yourself back and perplex the other members of the class.

This current rage for the "Pocket Ten" seems to be doing well across the counter. A Pocket Ten is a pretty good idea, but not one worth ringing bells about. The purpose of the pistol is completely defensive, and it is not clear that reducing its defensive capability is a particularly worthy notion. Certainly a compact handgun is easier to pack around, but ease of use would seem to be a secondary consideration. According to Combat Master Clint Smith, it is more important that a pistol be comforting than comfortable. Naturally the shooter wishes to optimize his circumstances, but he ought not to do this at risk of his life. The logogram DVC represents the equality of precision, power and quickness. It does not seem wise to emphasize one element over another.

In that regard we learn, to our mild disgust, that some outfit back in the East has decided that they own some sort of copyright on the logogram and that, therefore, we (the practitioners of the modern technique of defensive pistolcraft) must not go around putting DVC on anything. The trouble with this is that we have been putting those letters in various form on all sorts of artwork for about 40 years, and we are not inclined to start melting down our belt buckles, gunstocks and cap ornaments. It is unfortunate that people who have no style of their own wish to inflict their own low standards upon other people.

A correspondent recently mentioned that a relative of his had been "a member of the US Navy." Somehow I do not think you can be a "member" of the Navy. The old-fashioned term for a sailor was "sailor," with or without sails. Better a US Marine than a "member of the US Marine Corps," or so it seems to me.

So it appears that the home of the brave includes citizens who may be intimidated by the presence of a plastic knife! One may only be terrorized if he allows himself to be. Terror is a bad word and should be abandoned. Apparently we are living in an age when word usage may be dictated by the timid, the cowardly and the dishonorable. Let us turn that around and set up proper English usage to suit people who are worthy of it. Just as you cannot be enslaved against your will, you cannot be terrorized against your will. We inherit a noble tradition. Let us now resolve to live up to it!

People who presume to teach us about such things suggest that we change our ready ammunition every six months. I guess this is a good policy, but I do not regard it as a flat rule. The shelf-life of high quality smallarms ammunition is almost indefinite. On the other hand, shooting up your ready stock at least every six months will provide you with more time on the range; and that, of course, is a good thing in itself.

I suppose I should not keep repeating it, but the presence of an intermediate eye relief telescope sight does not make a rifle a Scout. There are about seven essential attributes to the scout concept, and taken together they make up into a "symbiosis" - a total which is greater than the sum of its parts.

Odd, but no one seems to have mentioned that the principal objurgators of the Jews in modern time are the Nazis and the Moslems.

In view of all this talk about military justice and "tribunals," we look back upon the time we spent in and around courts martial as a junior officer. In those days my bible was "Naval Courts and Boards", which was later followed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). All involved agreed that if you are innocent, you want a military court. If you are guilty, you want a civil court. The military court will attempt to find out what happened. A civil court, too often, is merely a procedural confrontation between two technicians.

I do not see how we can fight a war against terrorism, any more than we can fight a war against gravity. If we are going to fight, we are going to have to find a target, and that target will have to be human, rather than an attitude.

"You do not survive a gunfight. You win a gunfight."

Colonel Bob Brown

During the holidays just past, we were feted with the usual exhortations about "peace." Peace is a nice thing, but it is not overly impressive. All you need to do to achieve peace is to give up, and as to that, we will all have all the peace we need - all too soon. Perhaps we should consider the paraphrase "Peace on Earth - To Men of Good Will." Those people who want all infidels dead do not seem to fit into that category.

Several correspondents have informed us that according to the Koran, Moslems are forbidden to fight any but defensive wars. Since I do not read Arabic, I cannot be sure about this, but it seems that the Arabs had to defend themselves furiously all the way from Mecca (in Arabia) to Tours (in France), going backwards all the time. Those Christians must have been pretty clever in order to get around behind the ragheads, who then defended themselves in reverse for several thousand miles and several hundred years.

Our two favorite columnists are Thomas Sowell and Florence King. Miss King just threw us a real beauty in National Review. She asserts that her mother (an unreconstructed Southern Lady) disputed this "sensitivity" about busting the ragheads during Ramadan, as follows: "That's the best time to get 'em - when they've got their faces in the rug and their asses in the air."

Please Note. These "Commentaries" are for personal use only. Not for publication.